I know full well that this is going to make me sound like an old man, but I’m going to say it anyway: people don’t read enough these days.
People are arguably reading less, and according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the United States can’t even read! That works out to about 14% of the population in the United States, which is absolutely tragic for a modern society.
If you have kids, friends, even pets… please, encourage them to read. If you’re looking for good books for yourself, or to recommend, I believe I can help. I frequently write book reviews right here on Unfinished Man, and if you’re looking for a ton of great free books, plays, and poetry that are completely legal to download, then you need only scroll down the page for untold wonders.
Let’s start out with the classics. Did you know that as of this publication, the story of Moby Dick is 163 years old? In this section, you can enjoy the works of Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, and other famous authors.
- Classic Bookshelf: A huge collection of classic novels, from Charles Dickens to Charlotte Bronte.
- The Online Books Page: A comprehensive book search and database hosted by The University of Pennsylvania.
- Project Gutenberg: This famous site has over 27,000 free books online.
- Page by Page Books: Find books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells, as well as speeches from George W. Bush on this site. It’s pretty eclectic.
- Classic Book Library: Here you’ll find historical fiction, history, science fiction, mystery, romance, and children’s literature. They’re all classic.
- Classic Reader: Plenty of Shakespeare and young adult fiction.
- Read Print: From George Orwell to Charles Darwin, this online library is stocked with the finest classics.
- Planet eBook: Massive collection of free classic literature, from Dostoevsky to D.H. Lawrence to Joseph Conrad.
- The Spectator Project: Montclair State University’s project features full-text, online versions of The Spectator and The Tatler.
- Bibliomania: More than 2,000 classic texts, plus study guides and reference books.
- Online Library of Literature: Full and unabridged texts of classic literature, including the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, and more.
- Bartleby: Bartleby has much more than just the classics, but its collection of anthologies and other important novels made it famous.
- Fiction.us: Huge selection of novels, including works by Lewis Carroll, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, Flaubert, George Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many others.
- Free Classic Literature: Find British authors like Shakespeare and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, plus other authors like Jules Verne, Mark Twain, and more.
Textbooks can be incredibly expensive, and generally change little between editions. If you can avoid buying them, the following websites could save you hundreds of dollars.
- Textbook Revolution: A substantial collection of biology, business, engineering, mathematics, and world history textbooks.
- Wikibooks: From cookbooks to computer science, you’ll find instructional and educational materials on Wikibooks.
- KnowThis Free Online Textbooks: Need stats textbooks? This is the place to look.
- Online Medical Textbooks: Numerous books on plastic surgery, anatomy, and more.
- Online Science and Math Textbooks: Access biochemistry, chemistry, aeronautics, medical manuals, and other textbooks.
- MIT Open Courseware Supplemental Resources: Expansive collection of free videos and textbooks on the subjects of mechanical engineering, mathematics, chemistry, and more.
- Flat World Knowledge: An innovative “open college textbooks” platform.
- Free Business Textbooks: Free books to go along with accounting, economics and other business classes.
- Light and Matter: Access a wide range of open source physics textbooks.
- eMedicine: This project from WebMD is continuously updated with articles and references on surgery, pediatrics, and more.
Math and Science
Looking to become the next Elon Musk? This list of books about math, science, engineering, and technology, should get you started on the right path.
- FullBooks.com: This site has “thousands of full-text free books,” including a large amount of scientific essays and books.
- Free online textbooks, lecture notes, tutorials and videos on mathematics: NYU links to several free resources for math students.
- Online Mathematics Texts: Here you can find online textbooks like Elementary Linear Algebra and Complex Variables.
- Science and Engineering Books for free download: These books range in topics from nanotechnology to compressible flow.
- FreeScience.info: Find over 1800 math, engineering, and science books.
- Free Tech Books: Plenty of useful books for Computer programmers and computer science enthusiasts.
I kind of dislike children categorically, but… I realize they’re pretty important. If you have a child, here’s the place to find tons of free Children’s books.
- byGosh: Free illustrated children’s books and stories.
- Munseys: Munseys has nearly 2,000 children’s titles, plus books about religion, biographies, and more.
- International Children’s Digital Library: Search for award-winning children’s books by categories like age, make believe books, true books, or picture books.
- Lookybook: Children’s picture books.
Philosophy & Religion
Interested in learning more about Stoic philosophy? Perhaps you’re curious about world religions? These are the sites for you.
- Bored.com: Believe it or not, this is a great site for Music e-books, cooking e-books, and hundreds of philosophy and religious titles.
- Ideology.us: The works of Rene Descartes, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, David Hume, and many others.
- Free Books on Yoga, Religion and Philosophy: Recent uploads to this site include Practical Lessons in Yoga and Philosophy of Dreams.
- Religion eBooks: Books about the Bible, Christian books, and more.
If you’ve got a passion for plays, these sites feature everything From Shakespeare to George Bernard Shaw. You’ll even find more contemporary playwrights, if you’re into that sort of thing.
- ReadBookOnline.net: Plays by Chekhov, Thomas Hardy, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and others.
- Plays: Read Pygmalion, Uncle Vanya or The Playboy of the Western World.
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: MIT has made available all of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, and histories.
- Plays Online: This site catalogs “all the plays [they] know about that are available in full text versions online for free.”
- ProPlay: This site has children’s plays, comedies, dramas, and musicals.
Modern Fiction, Fantasy and Romance
What’s your fantasy? These websites are home to masssive collections of graphic novels, romance novels, fantasy books, and more.
- Public Bookshelf: Romance novels, mysteries, and more.
- The Internet Book Database of Fiction: This forum features fantasy and graphic novels, anime, J.K. Rowling, and more.
- Free Online Novels: Here you can find Christian novels, fantasy and graphic novels, adventure books, horror books, and more.
- Foxglove: This British site has free novels, satire, and short stories.
- Baen Free Library: Find books by Scott Gier, Keith Laumer, and others.
- The Road to Romance: Books by Patricia Cornwell and other romance novelists.
- Get Free Ebooks: This site’s largest collection includes fiction books.
- John T. Cullen: Short stories from the legendary John T. Cullen.
- SF and Fantasy Books Online: Books here include Arabian Nights, Aesop’s Fables, and more.
- Free Novels Online and Free Online Cyber-Books: A large collection of (mostly) fantasy novels.
I’ve been trying to learn French for years… maybe these books would have helped. Here you’ll find books on foreign languages like French, Spanish, and Romanian.
- Project Laurens Jz Coster: Find Dutch literature here.
- ATHENA Textes Francais: Search by author’s name, French books, or books written by other authors but translated into French.
- Liber Liber: Tons of Italian books. Browse by author, title, or subject.
- Biblioteca romaneasca: Many Romanian books.
- Bibliolteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes: Look up authors to find a catalog of their available works on this Spanish site.
- KEIMENA: This page is entirely in Greek, and hosts one of the largest collections of modern Greek literature online.
- Proyecto Cervantes: The cataloged works of Cervantes’.
- Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum: Access many Latin texts here.
- Project Runeberg: Find Scandinavian literature online.
- Italian Women Writers: This site provides information about female Italian authors and features full-text titles too.
- Biblioteca Valenciana: Register to use this database of Catalan and Valencian books.
- Ketab Farsi: Access literature and publications in Farsi.
- Afghanistan Digital Library: Powered by NYU, the Afghanistan Digital Library has works published between 1870 and 1930.
- CELT: CELT stands for “the Corpus of Electronic Texts” features important historical literature and documents.
- Projekt Gutenberg-DE: This easy-to-use database of German language texts lets you search by genres and author.
History and Culture
Heading to Rome? Maybe Egypt? Perhaps you’re sticking closer to home. In any case, it’s time to bone up on your world history.
- LibriVox: Strong selection of historical fiction.
- The Perseus Project: Tufts’ Perseus Digital Library features titles from Ancient Rome and Greece, published in English and original languages.
- Access Genealogy: Find literature about Native American history, the Scotch-Irish immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, and more.
- Free History Books: This collection features U.S. history books, including works by Paul Jennings, Sarah Morgan Dawson, Josiah Quincy and others.
- Most Popular History Books: Free titles include Seven Days and Seven Nights by Alexander Szegedy and Autobiography of a Female Slave by Martha G. Browne.
Arts and Entertainment
This collection of sites features books about celebrities, movies, fashion, and many other topics you probably shouldn’t be focusing too much time on.
- Books-On-Line: This large collection includes movie scripts, newer works, cookbooks, and more.
- Chest of Books: This site has a wide range of free books, including gardening and cooking books, home improvement books, craft and hobby books, art books, and more.
- Free e-Books: Find titles related to beauty and fashion, games, health, drama and more.
- 2020ok: Categories here include art, graphic design, performing arts, ethnic and national, careers, business and a lot more.
- Free Art Books: Find artist books and art books in PDF format.
- Free Music Books: Find sheet music, lyrics and books about music here.
- Free Fashion Books: Costume and fashion books are linked to the Google Books page.
There’s nothing quite like a good mystery. If you’re looking for mystery books featuring the likes of Sherlock Holmes, and even characters from more contemporary authors, you’re in luck.
- MysteryNet: Free short mystery stories.
- TopMystery.com: Read books by Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, GK Chesterton, and other mystery writers.
- Mystery Books: Read books by Sue Grafton and others.
I was never very good at writing poetry, but I can certainly appreciate a good poem. These poetry sites have works by Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, and many others. Your English teacher would be proud.
- The Literature Network: This site features forums, a copy of The King James Bible, and over 3,000 short stories and poems.
- Poetry: This list includes “The Raven,” “O Captain! My Captain!” and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.”
- Poem Hunter: Find free poems, lyrics, and quotations.
- Famous Poetry Online: Read limericks, love poetry, and poems by Robert Browning, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Lord Byron, and others.
- Google Poetry: Google Books has a large selection of poetry, from The Canterbury Tales to Beowulf to Walt Whitman.
- QuotesandPoem.com: Read poems by Maya Angelou, William Blake, Sylvia Plath and more.
- CompleteClassics.com: Rudyard Kipling, Allen Ginsberg and Alfred Lord Tennyson are all featured here.
- PinkPoem.com: On this site, you can download free poetry ebooks.
I hope you found this collection useful, and if you have any sites you believe I’ve missed, please feel free to leave me a note in the comments below! I’m always on the lookout for great new books.